"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

How are things in your town?

I took the wife and kids (both under 4) to Little Italy Pizzeria in downtown Athens last night. As we walked toward the restaurant from our parked car, I saw and heard a very large parade coming toward us on the sidewalk. I knew what it was right away. The American flags and the Spanish chanting gave it away. I maneuvered my way through the crowd into Little Italy with my one year old in my arms.

It was a peaceful demonstration, but it didn’t go down well with me. I kept thinking that this was something in the nature of a demonstration of power in numbers — a steel fist in a velvet glove, a loudly whispered “Don’t tread on us.”

My wife works in an indigent clinic in Athens and speaks Spanish. She basically provides free medical care to illegal immigrants for a living. She’s not very political and didn’t know the purpose of the rally. When she finally came in the restaurant she was smiling and said, “Those are my people!”

When I explained the point of the rally, she was a little less happy. It was her natural sense that there is something not quite right about illegal immigrants demanding that the host country do nothing to secure the borders or regulate the citizenship process, especially when they receive things like free medical care.

That natural sense is right. America should be generous, but not because she is intimidated.

5 comments:

Tlaloc said...

"I kept thinking that this was something in the nature of a demonstration of power in numbers — a steel fist in a velvet glove, a loudly whispered “Don’t tread on us.”"

Ironic that you use the old american motto- the one when we ourselves were demanding better treatment by our overlords as a way of condemning them.

As a general rule better treatment for the disaffected must be fought for because the ruing class is almost never genteel enough to simply do what is right in the first place.

Illegal immigration should be stopped, or at least curtailed, however the treatment of the immigrants already among us is a different matter. Amnesty and a path toward citizenship makes the most sense, both from a political and humanitarian perspective.

James Elliott said...

I have to say, I side with the president on this one. Amnesty, a path to citizenship, and a guest worker program.

The idea that illegal immigrants use up a wealth of social services is largely incorrect. Not only that, but they do pay a lot of the taxes that pay for a large number of them.

The protests are about the bill changing illegal immigration from the civil infraction it's been for two hundred years to a criminal felony. I think the protests were awesome, a display of assimilation (much like the Star-Spangled Banner in Spanish) that was wonderful to behold.

Hunter Baker said...

James, how do you justify your second paragraph? If employers pay these guys as independent contractors, there is no payroll tax, no income tax, etc. They would pay consumption taxes, but that would be it.

On the social service front, I know several people employed full time in the medical field who see essentially no patients who are not illegal immigrants. The bills are paid by Medicaid. I would classify that as "consuming social services."

James Elliott said...

Easily Hunter: The taxes you're talking about don't fund the lion's share of the services most people talk about when they think of illegal immigrants receiving social services. (My comment was not that they don't consume social services, but rather, that they consume less than popular opinion feels they do.) In fact, University of California researchers found illegal immigrants least likely to use social services, especially medical services, due to fear of deportation.

Medicaid is an in-kind federal matching program: Federal dollars match state dollars invested in the program. Most social services consumed by illegal immigrants are at the county level and paid for by local and state dollars. Those state dollars largely come from consumption and property taxes (which most illegals pay indirectly by being renters). Consumption taxes are, by nature, regressive; lower-income folks, such as a lot of illegal immigrants, pay a lot more of them proportional to income. Your comment also assumes that all illegals are paid in low-wage, under the table contracts, which is not the universal case. Typically, the "tax-data" debate factors in only tax contributions by migratory workers, who are actually not the vast majority of illegal immigrants.

Honestly, I wasn't picking a fight. I'm just trying to point out that the situation is far more complex than most people give it credit for, and that there is far too much inaccurate demogoguery in the debate. The inaccuracies must be quashed before useful discussion can be had.

S. T. Karnick said...

Excuse me for pointing this out, but if we spend a single nickel supporting people who are here illegally, it's far too much.